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Mayo minors give a masterclass

Sport

Minors give a masterclass


Semi-final
Mayo 3-19
Monaghan 1-12

Austin Garvin
Croke Park

“EXCELLENCE is not a skill. It is an attitude,” wrote American writer, Ralph Marston. He probably never heard of the Mayo minors, but he would have been delighted that his quote was applicable to the excellent performance of Enda Gilvarry’s men at Croke Park on Sunday last.
All through the championship, this Mayo minor team have been forced to dig deep. The Connacht semi-final against Galway was a real roller-coaster. The Connacht final against Roscommon was another encounter that asked tough questions of our youngsters.
Mayo have improved gradually all through the campaign, but none of us was expecting the awesome display of power-packed football as what they unleashed on Monaghan on Sunday last.
This was a performance to rival any ever produced by the county – or any other county for that matter. From the moment the outstanding Michael Hall struck the opening point, Mayo displayed purpose and intent that wouldn’t be denied.
However, the Farney County obviously had a plan to create space for their nippy and creative forwards. They did this by taking away Mayo’s Seamus Cunniffe from the full-back position with Barry McGinn playing deep.
For a while it worked, and only a reflex save from Mark Mulligan denied Conor McCarthy a goal. Mayo led by seven points to two after 14 minutes with Tommy Conroy (twice), Liam Irwin (free), Stephen Coen and Michael Plunkett all finding the target.
Monaghan then enjoyed their best spell of the game as they exploited the extra space inside to good effect with two pointed frees from David McAllister and a great goal from Conor McCarthy. All of a sudden Mayo’s early dominance was eroded as the Ulster champions drew level.
Mayo hearts skipped a beat as Cian Hanley suffered a fractured collar-bone injury. He receiving treatment for a lengthy spell before being removed to the Mater Hospital and replaced by Pádraig Prendergast. Mark Magee received a yellow card for the challenge when a deeper coloured one looked more appropriate.
The strength of character and unity of purpose inherent in this Mayo team came to the surface as they immediately responded to McCarthy’s goal with a Conor Loftus goal that was deflected to the net after Liam Irwin batted down the ball.
Mayo led at half time by 1-10 to 1-6 after Conor Loftus and Darragh Doherty pointed the Connacht champions, with Conor McCarthy and Ferghal McMahon (free) replying for the northerners.
Mayo obviously did their homework at half time as the defence tightened up considerably in the second half due to a more orthodox alignment. They made life more difficult for the Monaghan attack and generated some great attacking movements. In doing so they showed up alarming flaws in Frank Brady’s side and displayed awesome movement and scores.
After Darragh Doherty scored two quick points, Mayo struck with a goal from Michael Plunkett after Pádraig Prendergast’s effort was dropped by Conor Forde. Sub Prendergast was terrific and chipped in with two great points.
After Plunkett’s goal, Mayo unleashed their full repertoire of skills as they turned defence into attack. The scores followed as a consequence with the half-back line leading the way with some great sorties from deep.
Mark Mulligan brought off another point-blank save from Desmond Ward during an isolated Monaghan raid which helped to embellish his fine display further. Mayo finished with a flourish and some great points from Michael Hall, Pádraig Prendergast and Conor Byrne – together with a sublime goal from Tommy Conroy after Conor Loftus picked him out – put the icing on the cake.
This great display was a credit to all concerned. Croke Park obviously suits this Mayo team, which has speed and skill in abundance. After a shaky opening, the full-back line recovered well. The half-back line was tremendous, with Michael Hall and Stephen Coen chipping in with two points apiece. Diarmuid O’Connor and Val Roughneen were full of industry, with all of the attack doing well.
The management must take a bow for taking the team to such a high level of performance. They will know that an even stiffer test lies ahead. Conceding 1-12 will give them plenty to work on.

Mayo
M Mulligan; E Doran, S Cunniffe, D Kenny; M Hall (0-2), S Coen (0-2), S Conlon; V Roughneen, D O’Connor; C Loftus (1-1), M Plunkett (1-2), C Hanley; D Doherty (0-4), L Irwin (0-3, 2f), T Conroy (1-2).
Subs used: P Prendergast (0-2) for C Hanley (inj); C Byrne (0-1) for D Doherty; R Finn for E Doran (inj); J Langan for M Plunkett; F Duffy for L Irwin.

Monaghan
C Forde (0-1, 45’); S Treanor, K Loughran, P McArdle; A Kieran, R McAnaspie (0-1), M Murnaghan; M Browne, M Magee; M O’Dowd, A Curran, D Ward; C McCarthy (1-4), D McAllister (0-3frees), F McMahon (0-2, 1f).
Subs used: D Meegan for M Browne; N Loughnan for A Kieran; B McGinn for M O’Dowd; C Martin for P McArdle; A Treanor (0-1) for S Treanor.

Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow)  

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